[Humanist] 26.493 default online publication of dissertations

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Nov 17 10:32:25 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 493.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Daniel Allington <daniel.allington at open.ac.uk>            (20)
        Subject: Re:  26.489 default online publication of dissertations

  [2]   From:    "Vandegrift, Micah" <mvandegrift at fsu.edu>                 (16)
        Subject: 26.489 default online publication of dissertations

        Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2012 12:48:54 +0000
        From: Daniel Allington <daniel.allington at open.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re:  26.489 default online publication of dissertations
        In-Reply-To: <20121116084530.7360C2E14 at digitalhumanities.org>


While I'm sympathetic to most of your argument, I'd be careful of dividing the interests of publishers from the interests of writers or readers so neatly. There are practices which really do benefit (a minority of) publishers alone, e.g. charging a five figure sum for a year's subscription to a journal that is written and edited for free (and which may even charge a handling fee for submissions). But the majority of academic publishers do not behave like that, and wouldn't have the opportunity to do so anyway.

Authors and readers benefit from good editing. Authors benefit from good marketing. In fact, readers can arguably benefit from good marketing too, because that's one of the major ways in which they find out about new books: I often order books from the catalogues I receive from various university presses, for example, and these are often books that I wouldn't have noticed otherwise. If I order them through my university library and as physical rather than DRM-crippled electronic copies, they then go onto the shelves where not only staff and students but also members of the public can access them for free.

Editing and marketing are things that publishers have traditionally done. They don't always do them well, but the alternatives are (a) doing them yourself or (b) hiring freelancers, and most of us don't have the time for the first or the resources for the second. Call me conservative, but I want publishers - including academic publishers - to carry on being able to turn a profit so that I as a writer and reader am able to carry on benefiting from the work that they do. Except in extreme cases which have to be addressed as such (e.g. the pricing of top medical and scientific journals; I won't name names here), I do not believe it is fair to describe the system as benefiting only publishers, because writers and readers greatly benefit from activities that publishers will no longer be able to engage in once the system ceases to benefit them.

There has to be a place for both open access and commercial publication, I would think. Perhaps these can even be combined in a single entity, a la Canonical. But I hope we're not going to begrudge the typical academic publisher its meagre (and steadily falling) income.



On 16 Nov 2012, at 08:45, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:
>  The system benefits neither writers nor readers, only publishers. But it's probably going to get worse before it gets better.
> Amod Lele, PhD
> Educational Technologist
> Boston University
> Office: 617-358-6909
> Mobile: 617-645-9857
> lele at bu.edu<mailto:lele at bu.edu>
The Open University is incorporated by Royal Charter (RC 000391), an exempt charity in England & Wales and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 038302).

        Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2012 14:24:53 +0000
        From: "Vandegrift, Micah" <mvandegrift at fsu.edu>
        Subject: 26.489 default online publication of dissertations
        In-Reply-To: <mailman.5.1353063601.9135.humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org>

Morning all,

I just wanted to weigh in on the ETD conversation, as it is one I am deeply involved in here at Florida State. First, I'd like to point out a recent study http://works.bepress.com/nancy_seamans/7/  that found that "96% of university presses and journals indicated that ETD based works would be eligible for consideration in their publication." The paper is available here<http://dl.cs.uct.ac.za/conferences/etd2011/papers/etd2011_mcmillan.pdf>. Also, early this year, even the American Historical Association released a statement<http://blog.historians.org/publications/1605/publishing-your-dissertation-onlineunderstanding-policies> saying "there is no conclusive evidence that electronic publication can make it more difficult to publish a revised version of a dissertation…" and that "some editors reported that they would be more likely to publish a dissertation that had attracted attention online."

I'd also like to point out that if ever the humanities are going to move to embrace a more open model of scholarship, it should begin and be encouraged from the first scholarly work produced, the dissertation. I think a lot of the resistance to digital dissemination is simply a misunderstanding of the practicality and potential benefits of it. As the repository manager at Florida State, I get multiple requests for access to our theses and dissertations, so that that research can be consulted, built upon and revived. Regardless of the scholars like or dislike for their dissertation, that can only mean more citations and greater visibility of their work, broadly. Currently we allow students, with stated valid reason, to embargo up to 48 months from the time of graduation. I understand the impulse to hide that work away so that one can build it into a better, more fine-tuned product (The Monograph), but in the digital age there is also something to be said for staking that claim early, by releasing the dissertation upon graduation and proving that there are kernels of great ideas therein that will be built upon in future publications. And if publishers are still considering those works for publication, it sounds like a win-win.

The case I hear over and over is that very seldom is a dissertation published as is. There will be such substantial changes, through additions, revisions, editorial intervention, peer review, etc, that the dissertation being available online serves more as a teaser of the greater (different) work coming soon than a rehashing and repackaging of graduate-level work. Also, there is something to be said for how we talk about what happens to a dissertation… I'd argue that they are not "published" when they are made accessible in an institutional repository, but deposited, archived, released. Changing that language could go a long way for changing the culture of ETDs in the humanities, and how they are regarded as foundations for the next step of a scholars career.

I'd also like to make the case that generally there is a lack of understanding about the ETD process between libraries, graduate schools and humanities departments. As institutional repositories are becoming the central locations of many more ETD collections, educating the graduate school and the departments about author rights, the facts about open access and the role of the library in archiving and preserving these documents is becoming more apparent. I spend a good amount of my work doing outreach to our grad students on these topics, and often do so in contrast to the misunderstandings that are perpetuated in the home departments.

The most salient point, and an argument for open access broadly in the humanities, comes from Kathleen Fitzpatrick<http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/blog/giving-it-away/>. She writes, "… The more we close our work away from the public, the more we refuse to engage in dialogue across the boundaries of the academy, the more we undermine the public's willingness to fund our research and our institutions… closing our work away from non-scholarly readers, and keeping our conversations private, might protect us from public criticism, but it can't protect us from public apathy, a condition that is, in the currently economy, far more dangerous."

Micah Vandegrift


Micah Vandegrift
Scholarly Communication Librarian
Florida State University

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